Over the weekend the European Action Week of the Football against Racism in Europe (FARE) network will hit the highest point with a series of high-profile and grassroots events involving fan groups, players, clubs, NGOs and ethnic minority organisations.
The 9th edition of the FARE Action Week running from 16 to 28 October is engaging an unprecedented number of 40 European countries in the fight for a football world free of discrimination and exclusion.
Last night in the UEFA Cup Sampdoria joined FK Partizan in Belgrade in a remarkable symbolic action: On the pitch both teams dressed in FARE t-shirts and presented cards with the message “We don’t divide Black and White – We Unite.” This week the UEFA Champions League provided a massive public platform to spread the integrative message of the FARE Action Week. More than 570.000 people were directly touched by the message at the 16 stadiums.
FIFA World Cup Qualifiers marred by racism
A series of racist acts during at FIFA World Cup Qualifiers played last week demonstrate the need for continuous vigilance of all stakeholders of the game.
Kurt Wachter of the Austrian FARE-founding organisation FairPlay-vidc said:
In fighting against racism in football we have come far, but there is no time for complacency. At the qualifier in Bratislava we have witnessed anti-Semitism and racism on the part of Polish fans, in Zagreb Croatian supporters chanted – once again – Nazi and anti-Serb slogans during the game against Andorra, and the match between Bulgaria versus Italy saw blatant fascism amongst both fan groups. To stand up against racism is still very much necessary.
Scandinavian players show racism the red card
A highlight of the forthcoming weekend will be the strong involvement of the players and professional clubs all over Scandinavia. The Norwegian “Gi rasisme rødt kort” campaign coordinates anti-racist events in the Premier League, First Division and the Women's Premier League. Also a school contest has been launched at the start of the Action Week. In neighbouring Sweden the players union is also organizing a “Ge rasismen rött kort” campaign. Campaign flyers will be distributed to an estimated 135.000 spectators. At the team line-up a short DVD will be shown and players will hold up Red Cards. In Denmark the players union will stage an anti-racism event at Randers vs. Ålborg. Players will show the red card and an anti-racist penalty competition will take place during half-time. The previous weekend the Finnish Football Association and the national league (Veikkausliiga) were involved in the FARE Action Week.
New drive in Russia
In line with the emphasis of the FARE network to campaign in Eastern Europe for a football culture free of racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination, FARE has lent financial support to a growing number of initiatives and human rights NGOs in the former Soviet republics.
Maccabi Moscow, a Jewish community football club, is organizing two multi-ethnic football events in the framework of the FARE Action Week. In St. Petersburg an organization working mostly with homeless people called Put Domoi have hosted a “Football Against Racism” tournament for homeless and refugee teams at the Metrostoy stadium. In Georgia FARE supports a project of the NGO Bridge of Friendship “Kartlosi” which uses football as a means to involve both ethnic Georgians and Ossetians living in the zone of the very recent armed conflict in the border Thskhinvali region.
EURO 2008 host country fully behind the campaign
All clubs of the Austrian Bundesliga and the campaign FairPlay. Different Colours. One Game work together to convey a powerful message for diversity and against xenophobia. From the pitch three players of each team will make a personal statement against racism. The motto “I am against racism” will be present in the stadia on banners, on the vidiwalls, on the t-shirts of the escorting children and on the white & black cards shown by the players and referees.
English Premier League on board
In the English Premiership the games on Sunday 26 October between Chelsea vs Liverpool, Portsmouth vs Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur vs Bolton Wanderes and West Ham United vs Arsenal will all be dedicated to the celebration of diversity and the eradication of racial abuse.
FARE is confident that such high-profile action will successfully communicate the philosophy of the Action Week to the entire European football family, including countries and leagues where racist behaviour and harassment still pose serious problems for football and for society at large.